The history of Columbia College begins in 1851 when Christian Female College received a charter from the Missouri Legislature. Our first students studied arithmetic, ancient history, grammar, geography, philosophy, composition and the Bible.
By 1856, 150 students, including 85 boarders, were enrolled. When the Civil War began four years later, the college remained open thanks to committed faculty members who stayed on, knowing they might not be paid. The college never missed a day of classes during the war.
The 1890s saw a period of growth as then-president Luella St. Clair — one of the country’s first female college presidents — led construction of four new buildings. St. Clair Hall, Dorsey Hall, Launer Auditorium and Missouri Hall are all still in use today.
The first traditional Ivy Chain ceremony was held in 1900, and the tradition continues today. Graduating seniors are draped with an ivy chain to signify their connection to one another and the college. The ivy is then cut to represent that lifelong bond even as each student embarks on an individual journey.